Disclaimer: I do not own Pretender. I make no money off of this fiction. It’s just for fun.

———————-

 “You stay here, Sydney. I’ll get her,” Jarod insisted. “Just keep one of the camera feeds on her.”

“Is that all I can do?” Sydney asked.

“For now. Depending on what they did to her, she’s going to want you nearby. I have a feeling it’s not as rosy as Mister Broots said it was supposed to be.” Otherwise, he wouldn’t be there. He slid on a pair of glasses to go with a white lab coat and tucked another pair on the inside pocket. He wasn’t going to be able to fake being part of the Triumvirate’s area easily, so an imported visiting scientist would be his best bet to get easy access through the front door.

After that, he’d get away and blend his way backward to the area Broots remembered.

“It’s a lot like The Centre’s security,” Broots said from his laptop in the car. “I thought so. It’s almost identical.”

“Be careful, Jarod,” Sydney warned him. “There is no telling what happened to her. I don’t mean just isolation.”

“I know.” Sydney was being more careful with his words this time. He must have sensed he made Jarod angry the last time he spoke of Miss Parker’s incarceration.

“There may even be no chance of survival.” It was difficult for him to say, but he said it.

Jarod didn’t want to hear that, but there were many things he never wanted to know as facts in life. From the tragic sims he always performed. From the real world experiences of grief, heartbreak and sorrow that he discovered. Watching his brother die, what felt like twice. Losing his family.

Losing an old friend to some experimental drug or treatment would be another new thing he’d have to come to terms with, if it happened. “Even if it’s that bad, I’ll still bring her back.” He heard Broots make a sound inside the car. It wasn’t easy to consider the possibility, but she was in there for some time.

It wasn’t the greatest possibility. Hiring a voice actor and threatening Mister Broots led a lot more credence to her being okay. “I’ll be back with her. I promise.” He headed toward the main doors. He could have tried to take extra days to becoming one of the staff, except that this wasn’t a pretend far away from home. Recognition through application would be fairly high since the Triumvirate and The Centre were so close together. He had better chances just going in, and hoping the local staff didn’t recognize him as the one they wanted a whole continent away. If he was recognized, he’d find his way out, and have to come up with an ulterior plan using someone unrecognizable.

Otherwise. Depending on what they were doing, and the shape she was in.

He just wanted her out.

———————-

“S . . . S-s.”

Sydney watched as Jarod took off to the main hub of The Triumvirate. There were still more places for the Triumvirate, but this was their star area which Broots and Miss Parker had came to.

“S-sydney! Sydney!”

Sydney came over to Broots in the car who was taking off his headphones. His colleague was stark white and sweating. Scared. It was not a good sign. He had taken his moan earlier before Jarod left as a sign of his worry for Miss Parker when he mentioned possibility of imminent death.

It may not have been that.  “Something to do with Miss Parker?” He still didn’t look good. “What happened?”

Broots gulped and leaned his laptop toward Sydney. Miss Parker was lying on top of some covers in a gown like before, but she had changed position. She was more compact in her sleep position this time, holding the gown closer to her stomach. “Sydney? Tell me there’s a-another reason her belly’s . . . bigger?”

Oh no. “Pregnancy, Broots.” They were experimenting on her like they had Catherine. A quiet rage burned inside of him. Just like Catherine Parker! Sydney looked toward Broots who was starting to panic and blame himself. Jarod didn’t know, but over reacting wasn’t going to help.

“Well, who’s the father?” Broots asked. “Sydney?”

“It depends on why Lyle wanted her pregnant,” Sydney answered. “Be quiet, Broots. Jarod will find the answer. Don’t tell him, he’s Pretending. He will be better off with the added stimuli if it naturally comes during the pretending.” He looked toward Broots again. “If the answer is one that will devastate him though, you must give me your headphones. Understand?”

————————-

A few minutes earlier . . .

“Hello. Hi, I’m-“ Jarod’s pen stumbled out of his hands. “Sorry.” He picked it back up. “Do you got it? I mean, do you know who I am? They said you’d know who I am.” Jarod knew exactly who the person was who was watching him. Someone was supposed to come down from the Centre for a learning experience. In fact, this learning experience would probably end in re-education the way he was described to act. Broots said the report for the guy was to get Lyle more information about what was there. But because of the riskiness of the area, Lyle wanted to send someone that was ‘expendable’.

But the guy himself just saw it as a step up, so Jarod pretended to be excited but watchful at the same time. “I’m here for the notes and everything.”

The man in front of him looked like he got dealt a bad hand. “Yes. I heard of you. Mister Lyle wants to see what you think of some things. Follow me.”

Jarod! The small earpiece was being screamed into by Mister Broots. He was expecting to get directions and video feed help, not his ear injured.  Jarod, oh no. Jarod I, I. Oh. Oh!

“I’m interested in everything,” Jarod said as he came up extremely close to the man. He couldn’t dwell on what Broots saw on the cameras ahead. “Where are we? Second floor.” He wrote down second floor. “What’s done on the second floor?”

“Walking,” he said.

“Walking. You’re funny, man! Wow. South Africa. The Tri-ummmm-virate! Really cool,” Jarod said as he wrote down cool on his paper.

I’m so sorry, Miss Parker. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Broots spoke again. Jarod couldn’t answer or ask him anything. He would just have to wait, but hearing the uneasiness wasn’t making his pretending any easier.

“You can learn some things, just some,” the man said. “Do not wander off.”

“You bet.” The person Jarod was pretending to be had a habit of doing just that. “Hey, what’s that?”

“It is someone with Progeria. We are working on developing a cure for it.”

“Whoah, really neat,” Jarod said. “What’s up further?”

“More working on cures,” the man said disinterested. “Correction and repair is our area. Our more bolder projects are shared with The Centre.”

“Hm.” Jarod kept walking. “And the ones ahead? Is everything just cures? South Africa is really interesting. Is everything just cures? Sir? Is everything just- oh.” Jarod dropped his papers again. “Could you hang on? I want to write all this stuff down.” He looked to the poor souls trapped in the cells. He tried to keep his personal feeling off his face as he started to write down information.

“Are you really writing all this down?” his guide asked. “There is tons of information on the front of their cells.”

“Yeah. In a second. Where’s your bathroom?” Jarod asked. “Do you need to come with me in South Africa?” The guide just blinked at Jarod. “Is that a no? Will it be written in English or one of the other languages? What’ll it say? Does it have the little figure with the pants on the front? Do you have spray for the bathroom?”

“That way. End of the hall.” He pointed his finger to the left. “And no, I don’t need to go to the bathroom with you.” That definitely irritated him. “Be right back.”

“I will.” Jarod went passed the area, and passed the bathroom. Tossing the board away into a garbage can, he took off the glasses to change for a different more expensive pair and changed his walk. He no longer looked like he was an amateur but a professional scientist. He held himself up higher, changing his whole stance and personality. He spoke to no one as he passed until they spoke to him.

He looked at the identification on each cells. So far, he saw nothing like what Broots described. They were regular looking cells, no glass, no amenities. Just small windows behind steel.

“Excuse me?” A woman tapped on his shoulder. “Should you be in this section?”

“No, actually, I’m taking care of the woman in the glass cell,” he said. “I just thought I’d explore around a little. I never come over here.”

“You take care of Miss Parker? Are you the expected psychiatrist?”

Psychiatrist? Things, when they fell together, those were Jarod’s specialty. “Yes. Have you seen her?”

“Oh no, but I’ve heard of her. We’ve all heard of her. I’m denied access there.”

“Well, come on. I have clearance and I’ll show you the subject,” Jarod said, hoping he intrigued the woman. “Lead the way.”

“Really? Oh, this is exciting.” She followed side by side with Jarod straight. “The Triumvirate and the Centre, working closer together, like the older days. Mister Lyle’s plans, all through one woman. He’s brilliant.”

All through Miss Parker. Broots voice came through again.

“We used to work much better with the Centre, but then they kept holding the scrolls over us and secrets from us about the Parkers,” she said. “This though, it will improve our relations. Mister Lyle even comes to Africa more than once a month, to ensure everything is going according to plan. He hides nothing from us, unlike his father or uncle.”

“He sounds like he’ll be a great leader,” Jarod said. He moved back a little ways, but still walked like he was confident he knew the way if she wasn’t walking in front of him.

“It is night. She should be sleeping,” she said as she stopped at a door. “Are you sure I am allowed in with you?”

“I don’t think it’ll be a problem,” Jarod said, knowing Broots should already have the doors opened. He was following his pace and movements via security system cameras. Opening every door would look suspicious, so he was opening and closing along the way when it was called for. Jarod slipped in an official looking card key that was anything but official. “I’ll ask real quick.” He went in, and closed the door. Around him were finally glass cages.

Getting closer. Jarod, please get her out of there! Broots’ voice came again.

How bad was this? Why was Broots so incredibly worried now?

All Jarod could do for now was keep going. He walked through each glass cage, looking in each one. They were empty.

“What are you doing here?” A woman said that passed him.

“Oh. I’m Miss Parker’s expected psychiatrist,” Jarod said. “I was just hired and I’m trying to find my way around.”

“Oh. She will be tricky to get to. Follow me.” She followed him side by side. “Do you believe you can really reduce the stress in her life?”

“I am here to try and do that,” Jarod said. “The patient has a high history of high stress, smoking, and a perforated ulcer. Talking out her problems will help.”

“I don’t think so,” she said casually. “I believe there is so much a person can do when you are trying to lessen the stress on a patient in such a position.”

“Every position is difficult,” Jarod said. “If it was easy to do, anyone could do my job.”

“I suppose. But, I . . .”

Jarod watched her. Compassion? If she worked there, and up high enough to know what was going on with Miss Parker, why did she have compassion? “Do you feel sorry about her position?”

“My profession says no, but the other side of me. It is not easy to watch this.”

Jarod kept his outer feelings blank, but his insides were bubbling, wanting to know more. What is it that Broots saw? What is it that she knew? “Is there anything you can add that would help me reach her easier?”

“No,” she said. “I know nothing but the facts. She is carrying twins, and they will be separated at birth.”

He. He bent his head down. Just like her mother. Keep it together, he had to keep it together. “That must be tough on her.”

“Yes. Her position. Her future,” she said. “No woman would want her position.” She brought him right in front of the glass cell where Miss Parker was sleeping. She slept without any blankets, instead just a long white gown tucked against her. “She may be the connection between the Parker and the Pretender Program, but my ethics feel shaky. Perhaps I should have a session with you too.”

The Pretender Program. “She is carrying a Pretender Program’s . . . offspring.”

“Yes. The first is Jarod, the one they want the most. I do not know the order after that.” She placed her hands on the glass. “Did they tell you baby Jarod would be a subject with The Centre in America, and the other would be raised to take over it?” She looked toward Jarod. “You are unbiased in all things?”

“They . . .” His. Because she slept so tight in there, he could see her stomach clearly. A baby bump. She looked otherwise healthy.

“I asked if you are unbiased in all things. If you are not, you shouldn’t take this position,” she warned him. “We must separate personal from business here. Would you like me to escort you to your office?”

“Yes.” He couldn’t mess up. “Soon. I’d like to study the subject a few minutes longer,” Jarod said, using all the pretender skills he could to keep from cracking his identity. He watched her move slightly. The shifting. She might be feeling them move.

Jarod. He had seen many things in his lifetime. Witnessed horrible atrocities brought on by The Centre or the Triumvirate. Lies about his family being dead. Gunning for his family when he found them. All the cruelty they used his sims for. Even watching a clone of himself. But. This one.

Watching his future kids, already inside of some experimental cell with him in a lab coat looking in, just like those of The Centre, and not being able to show one shred of his real emotion that was raging inside, or he risked someone finding out about him.

“Are you done yet?”

“Almost,” Jarod insisted. “You go on ahead. I’ll be right there.”

“What are you doing?” she asked, looking toward Miss Parker. “She is sleeping. There is nothing you can do.”

“Getting a feel of the patient. It’s a habit.” His voice broke slightly out of character. He had to keep it together.

Jarod. Sydney’s voice. Concentrate on what you are doing. Keep all sensatory processes out of your mind that aren’t needed. Think about who you are and your position. Feel your lab coat against you. The glasses on the rim of your nose. The bright lights in the room.

Unlike Broots’ voice, Sydney knew what he was doing. Jarod closed his eyes just a bit, concentrating as Sydney gave him guidance like he used to in The Centre. Once he felt more in control, he opened his eyes again. “It is bright in here with no sense of time. Her circadian rhythm may be off.”

“We give her dark periods. She does not always sleep well at night.”

“I’ll watch her half an hour and see if I can catch her for a session. The way she moves, she may be waking up soon.”

“Yes, sir. Here then.” She gave him a key card. “Please do not lose that. The Triumvirate doesn’t like replacing cards. Please note all rules, especially about any medication, it is not allowed. ” She pointed to the right. “Your office room is that way. It should have your name on it, but we were not expecting you until morning. If you see a room with no label two doors down in there, it is yours. Welcome to our organization.” She said it briefly, politely before she walked off.

Jarod listened closely to the sounds of the steps, making sure they were getting lighter until he couldn’t hear them anymore. Now. Jarod just needed to hear one thing from Broots. He didn’t care about the excuses or condolences, he just wanted one thing.

I don’t know if running to the nearest emergency door is an option. She looks bigger on the monitor, Jarod. I don’t know how much activity she’s had. What they’ve fed her, or-

“Lab.” No more. “Lab, Broots. Now.”

Definitely. The lab, yes, so this can’t happen again. Uuuhhh. It’s next door, B8. Looks like they wanted to keep her close to it. Poor Miss Parker.

Jarod didn’t want to leave, but he couldn’t risk anything else happening to anyone else. Finding the lab, he looked around it and found it. There wasn’t much, but leave it to The Centre to have everything. After he gathered all of his bodily fluids, along with his brother Kyle’s, and Angelo’s, and others he didn’t know but were labeled with ‘Pretender Program’ on them, he shoved them in the lab microwave and dialed settings for high then 9-0-0-0 start. It would all be made useless, and depending on the composition of the chemistry tubes, they might even explode.

He couldn’t stop all the DNA they had for cloning, but he’d be damned if he would be treated this way too, and let Lyle’s new plans for his Centre go off without a hitch. After taking care of the samples, he went back toward Miss Parker’s cell.

Broots spoke again. Okay, the quickest path is straight down. I’ll cover the video footage for you, and I’ll open all the doors on the way out, there’s only two, but if someone comes, I can’t really do anything. I don’t think I have much more time before someone discovers me in the system.

Jarod knew the gist. He looked around the glass cell, making sure no one was coming or going. It was a quieter, more restrictive area. He moved toward her glass door and opened it with the key card. He went toward her side, concentrating on his task.

He didn’t quite know what to expect when she awoke, being trapped in there for so many months, knowing her twisted fate. He would have to be prepared for anything. He gently nudged her shoulder. “Miss Parker. It’s me. Wake up.”

“Hm?”

“It’s me. Jarod.”

Her eyes almost instantly awoke like someone poured freshly made coffee all over her soul. She quickly scrambled to her feet. Now wasn’t the time for explanations. As Jarod opened the door, he held her hand, making sure she didn’t fall, as they both ran as quickly as they could. He kept her close as they moved down a pair of stairs onto the first floor, the exit wasn’t far now.

Then, he felt her hand break away.

—————————-

As much as she appreciated the jail break, Miss Parker wanted her best chance at freedom. If it were on another day, she would have gone with Jarod. No doubt Sydney and Broots were probably there with him, keeping watch.

If The Centre were shown video with her leaving willingly with Jarod, Miss Parker wouldn’t be able to repair the damage done. The Triumvirate would spin the story that she was escaping and running with Jarod. And, if it were a weekend, she would do it. No choice.

But it wasn’t the weekend, and she had enough information to pull herself into a better situation. The first time she visited as a little girl, she found out where the Delegates offices were. Just like in America. It was the most important thing to know visiting right next to the location of the bathrooms. During the weekdays, Centre personnel of high order visited for continued good relations. Mondays, Thursdays, and Fridays would have a high chance of someone being there. Tuesdays and Wednesdays, it was guaranteed someone would be there.

That day was Tuesday. At least two people would be there.

Depending on relations and situations, it could be five or more. During less happy relations, the partnership still included at least one. She had an even better upperhand on the situation because Jarod wouldn’t expect during a getaway she would be trying to get away from him too.

Go back. Those are Jarod’s too. You have to go with him!

Her annoying inner voice wasn’t going to make her stop running. She made a decision and there was no going back. Going back to him meant getting caught, silenced, and hidden away again.

Lyle was the one making this secret deal. She knew it. She knew The Centre wasn’t a part of it. The Delegate doors were getting closer as emergency lights started to sound.

Like sliding into home, she grabbed the handle on the Delegates door and started banging on it. “Open up, it’s Miss Parker! I’ve been prisoner in here! Open up!”

The door opened to three Delegates. She moved inside and watched as they cocked their pistols. One of them pulled out the phone and got Raines on it for her, tossing it to her.

Never in her life was she more happy to hear that wheezing. Ever. Ever, ever. Probably never would be again, but that wheezing meant she was connected.

Once she told him everything, Lyle’s ass was grass. In a few years, she’d have a hold of The Centre. She could play along with the uncomfortable things it did while she learned about it. She did it as a child, improving her gut for it as she grew older. She’d be the perfect little candidate. Letting them think they were molding her and sculpting her.

Then, when it was within her reach, she’d send everything crashing down to hell, burning it into an oblivion that no one would be able to touch. The children would be freed, and her mother’s wish would be granted.

At least, that’s what she planned on doing until the asshole she’d been trying to catch over six years broke through the window.

——————————–

Jarod considered all things. All options. From getting smacked in the face, hugged for his presence, seeing her dead, comatose, or traumatically injured. He did not however see her actually breaking away from a chance at freedom, after six months, no matter who was rescuing her.

At first, he’d been caught clueless. Something he hated. He needed to know each and every thing going around him all the time in order to prevent capture. As she started running away at an even faster pace than she pretended she could go at first, he knew she already had a different plan.

He ran out the exit himself. If he chased her, The Triumvirate would chase him. He headed around on the outside of the building.

She must be going to the Delegates office. It’s in the front, can’t be missed.

Delegates office. She was actually making a break for getting help from The Centre. Not anymore. There were windows on the outside of it, but considering they said their more ambitious projects were ‘somewhere else’, then he had to ask. “Broots. Bullet proof windows?”

“Oh. No, I don’t think so. The Triumvirate doesn’t really-“

Jarod tuned him out, getting what he wanted. The Triumvirate in South Africa was a beautiful place, covered in an assortment of plants and flowers. So right before reaching his destination, the window outside the simple Delegates office, he had already been watching for a good target to throw.

The abandoned shovel on the ground won.

Surveying the inside briefly, making sure he didn’t hit her, he figured out his best trajectory and busted the window. Miss Parker was well trained in all emergencies, so she bent down and missed most of the glass. Giving him the time he needed to perform his next action.

Abduct her right back. Grabbing her safely in a position that wouldn’t hurt her, he took off out of the office. The Delegates wouldn’t be allowed to open fire on him, they could hit Miss Parker, and that could have cost them their lives. It was the same reason they were risking their lives to protect her.

But that wasn’t their job anymore. It was his.

 “Miss Parker?” Broots called to her from the window. “Are you-“

“Now isn’t the time,” Jarod said interrupting him as he slipped into the back seat with her. “Sydney, move it!”

Sydney hustled out of there as quickly as possible.

That place was far behind them now.

Now it was time to deal with something else.